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ASF hits South Korea

By Staff | Sep 26, 2019



African Swine Fever has swept across Asia and other parts of the European Union with the latest outbreak settling over South Korea. ASF is highly contagious and deadly, a virus that wipes out both domestic and wild pigs. While it cannot be transmitted to humans, it still is having an effect on farmers.

The latest outbreak seems to be of benefit to U.S. pork producers, but not soybean growers. Tim Bardole, president of the Iowa Soybean Association who farms near Rippey, confirmed that the latest incident in South Korea is not good.

“It’s bad, there’s no question. It’s no surprise it has spread from China to neighboring countries. Right now, that’s probably the biggest risk to our soybean meal market – export wise. It just keeps killing pigs and I have not heard of any real solution to it. Hopefully if it gets into South Korea more, I’m hoping their confinement-style operations and better biosecurity will stop it before it spreads over to Europe,” he said.

Chad Hart, Iowa State University Extension economist, said the markets are responding to the South Korean outbreak, but not in a grandiose way just yet.

“The markets seem to be trying to figure out just how bad things are right now. We know it’s going to have an impact, the question is how bad. Is it an isolated incident? When looking at lean hog futures, they’ve been mixed. When looking at a nearby contract, it’s down slightly,” Hart said.

U.S.-produced pork ought to be able to fill the void left in the marketplace that the ASF has carved out. Pork is the world’s most popular type of meat, and it is in high demand in Asian markets. In fact, South Korea is one of the top five export markets for U.S. pork., the Iowa Pork Producers reported.

“Initial culling numbers in South Korea are small, and we hope they can slow the spread of the disease in their country. Success in stopping ASF would be welcomed news to the swine industry,” said Jamee Eggers, IPPA Director of Producer Education.

The soybean market is already under pressure from China’s tariffs, so the loss of soybean meal exports to South Korea is “adding insult to injury.”

“It’ll cut down on feed demand from the hog side, but we do have other markets entering. Their beef and poultry industries still need feed, so while we expect South Korea’s need for soybean meal to be slightly negative, we hope to make up for it elsewhere. We also hope that this report of an outbreak is an isolated incident and won’t spread, so the impact as far as feed demand is relatively minimal,” Hart said.

However, Hart added that U.S. pork is “well positioned” especially in South Korea to fill in any void.

“That’s been a growth market the past few years and this will just add momentum to that,” he said.

U.S. pork producers must remain vigilant with biosecurity measures, because Hart said this virus can live in feed and in meat for extensive periods of time.

“No one should feel incredibly secure that it can never happen here. It’s not a question of if, but when something will happen,” Hart said.

From Sept. 23 through Sept. 26, IPPA joined USDA, IDALS and 13 other states in a functional exercise to practice responses in the event of an ASF outbreak.

“While this is an on-ground practice, we will treat this as a real event so we can continue to refine our response plans and preparedness activities,” Eggers said. “The announcement that African swine fever has been detected in South Korea points out how this viral disease not only moves through herds but also across borders. That’s why the Iowa Pork Producers Association, along with the swine industry nationally, continues to support strict animal health and import requirements being enforced by the U.S. government through a variety of agencies.”

In fact, IPPA has joined other pork producers across the country to request an additional 600 positions be added to Customs and Border Protection to help prevent entry of ASF and other foreign animal diseases into the United States.

“ASF does not impact human health, or the safety of pork as a food. However, ASF will kill pigs,” Eggers said. “That’s why we continue to ask the public that travels internationally, or who host international travelers, to follow the safety protocols that can help protect our pig population.”

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